Archive for Thursday, June 9, 2005

Proposed Union Station exhibits may hurt smaller regional museums

June 9, 2005


— If exhibits about the outlaw Jesse James and aviator Amelia Earhart become a reality at Kansas City's Union Station, some worry about the impact on some smaller regional museums featuring the two.

James was born in Kearney, Mo., just outside Kansas City, and there's a museum there at what used to be the family farm. He and his brother Frank became notorious after the Civil War with their gang of bank and train robbers, and he was shot to death in 1882 in St. Joseph.

Another James museum in the house where the outlaw was slain is operated by the Pony Express Historical Assn.

Earhart, who disappeared in 1937 while trying to fly around the world, was from Atchison, Kan., which has a museum devoted to her.

Kimberly Davis, deputy director of the Patee House Museum in St. Joseph, has seen a steady decline in visitors there. She is concerned about what an exhibit in a major metropolitan area like Kansas City might mean for smaller regional museums like hers.

She said tourists' interest in history is too easily sated.

"Competition from a large facility like Union Station could drain even more interest from the local museums," Davis said.

At Union Station, a restored railroad station that has been struggling to find its niche, officials have begun talking about a plan to feature the lives and history of prominent figures from throughout the region.

"We are looking into promoting a regional history presence in Kansas City," said spokeswoman Sarah Biles.

Jan Coyle, manager of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, takes a different view, saying an exhibit in Kansas City could help heighten awareness about the famous aviator and get more people interested in seeing where she grew up.

And a descendant of Jesse James has no problem with another venue calling attention to him.

"It's an excellent idea," said Betty Barr, James' great-granddaughter. "Union Station is suffering, and I think the museum would be a great drawing point."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.